So. I’ve been trying to get my head behind the Native Instruments Komplete 12 and its various bundles. I think I’ve figured it out, and factored in my interests in synthwave / Hawkwind and prog rock. On one level it’s straightforward: buy what you can afford. I wanted to unpack that further. I’m just a beginner, so anything wrong let me know in the comments and I’ll fix it!
Buying Komplete 12
There’s an enormous amount of content in the full Komplete 12 suite, and you won’t want or use a lot of it. It still makes sense to buy the bundles. My summary (to save you reading) is:
- Buy the bundles: the discounting is magnificent (>80% quoted) even if you don’t want it all
- Look out for sales: November for Black Friday, Christmas and summer are great times for bargains, though as Komplete 12 is quite new, the 2018 Thanksgiving sale had no bundle discounts
- Buy in stages: Native Instruments don’t penalise you for buying a bundle then buying the upgrade later. I think this is great
- Standard Edition might be enough: it’s not perfect, there’s a lot not included, but it might be most of what you need (and can justify!)
- Don’t forget your DAW you don’t have to only use Komplete to make music! I’m on the Garageband/ Mainstage/ Logic Pro X journey, and that gives plenty of sounds, some synths (including Alchemy) and samplers and effects
- Don’t forget other options you can mix in other items not just in your DAW. Korg M1 or Wavestation VST/AU are a good fit for synthwave, Dexed is a great freeware synth and there are many more. It’s a set of tools, a large part of which may be Komplete, but not all.
Understanding the bundles
- Komplete 12 Mikro is enough to make Maschine work, has some strengths but you will want to upgrade
- Komplete 12 Select has some decent elements to suit my tastes / needs, but I would save up for…
- Komplete 12 Standard a good set of tools / sounds / synths for a lot of projects, lacking in some areas but there’s enough for an amateur (as in unpaid not anything bad) to get a lot of use from, especially coupled with your DAW / other VSTs (AUs)
- Komplete 12 Ultimate is what you’d like to get but can’t justify unless you have plenty of funds / talent or the chance to make some money from your work
- Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector’s makes no sense to me, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.
BTW: this ignores the subset of Komplete 12 Select you get with the Komplete Kontrol A series midi-controllers.
UPDATE JAN 2019: From February Native Instruments is offering a new free selection called KOMPLETE START. It has enough content to make me hold off rushing to get KOMPLETE SELECT and is definitely of interest for synthwave.
Komplete 12 Mikro
In terms of Komplete (ignoring the other Maschine elements), this gives you bits of two engines and three complete [!] synths. You get Reaktor 6 Player and Kontakt 6 Player sitting behind a number of sounds, and for synths you get Massive, Monark and Reaktor Prism. Despite their age, the synths have their benefits, and Massive (about to be upgraded by Massive X) is widely regarded. Prism has the odd useful sound (from a synthwave perspective at first glance) and Monark does good bass (an oversimplification I know) and is a useful analog monosynth.
And that’s it! Clearly once the basics of Maschine Mikro Mk3 are mastered, you may well want more…
Komplete 12 Select
To my eyes, Komplete 12 Select is a taster across the various elements of Komplete 12. I’ll discus it section by section. It matches some of my interests, but a lot of the content I’m not sure I would use immediately. It’s more than just a stepping stone, but not as superb as some of the dearer options. And that’s to be expected.
Engines: Apart from the two players already mentioned, Kontakt 6 Player comes bundled with something called Ethereal Earth. It’s described (scroll down) as:
A rich hybrid instrument that takes live instrumentation from across the world and combines it with digital synthesis.
I’ve heard the presets on this YouTube video, so it has promise for pads / ambient sounds.
Synths: the big bonus here is Retro Machines Mk2. It gives versions of a decent bunch of synths sitting right at the heart of a lot of the music I like from the ’70s and ’80s.
Creative Samplers: none
Pianos: The Gentleman, a piano sounding perfectly fine, but not really relevant to the music I think I want to create
Drums and Percussion: Drumlab designed to make drum layering simple. Don’t forget Maschine comes with a lot of drum tools / samples, as do various DAWs
World Instruments: Discovery Series West Africa looks intriguing in its own right, but is it prog rock / synthwave? I’m not sure
Electric Pianos and Organs: a couple of examples here, again they may be wonderful, but don’t tick the right boxes for what I think I need
Acoustic and Electric Guitars: none
Bass Guitars: Scarbee Rickenbacker Bass – at first I wasn’t sure about the relevance for me, then I listened to the sample tracks, and there’s a Lemmy sound-alike and ticking the big Hawkwind box!
Classical Instruments: none
Studio and Creative Effects: For me all nice to have (and not many for Select) but I also have options in my DAW. I don’t know enough to get really excited
Expansions: you get three expansions with Select, sadly none of them really tick the genre boxes I’m interested in. They will add lots to palette of sounds in my Maschine but that’s as far as I can tell without using them. Note also that half the drums won’t be useful unless you also own BATTERY.
Komplete 12 Standard
If you’re still here, thanks for sticking with it. I’ll try and pick the pace up, but there’s a lot to cover. For me this is very much worth the investment.
Engines: now we get the full versions of REAKTOR 6 and KONTAKT 6, and the latter means lots of goodies (55 Gb of downloads included) with Analog Dreams and Hybrid Keys joining Ethereal Earth as well. Plenty already for synthwave fans to get excited about.
Creative Samplers: along with POLYPLEX you get BATTERY 4, the latter opening up all those expansion drum-kits you might have
Pianos: four new instruments join The Gentleman, again not top of my list
Drums and Percussion: you get ABBEY ROAD 60s DRUMMER, nice but I might have more use from the 70s version. There’s also STUDIO DRUMMER (but Garageband / Logic Pro X also have drummers). This does contain a lot though
World Instruments: you get more but are they relevant for my goals?
Electric Pianos / Organs: two more, will they get much use?
Acoustic Guitars: we get the first of these, SESSION GUITARIST – STRUMMED ACOUSTIC, and I can see some use for various projects as I can’t play guitar at all!
Bass Guitars: you now get two, which is nice, I guess!
Classical Instruments: with SESSION STRINGS and SESSION HORNS you seem to get tasters for the more advance options. Is this very relevant for my goals?
Cinematic: another taster with KINETIC METAL and I can see using this in an experimental 70s style piece (or ten)
Studio and Creative Effects: For me all nice to have (and more than with Select) but I also have options in my DAW. I still don’t know enough to get really excited
Komplete 12 Ultimate
With Komplete 12 Ultimate yo get a vast amount of everything, so not all will be relevant for every type of user. My estimate is for me this would be overkill in the near future, but there is still a lot here for a more experienced synthwave / prog composer.
Engines: nothing new
Creative samplers: FLESH is added to the mix
Pianos: you get ALICIA’S KEYS added to the set. See my earlier comments about personal relevance
Drums and Percussion: lots of Abbey Road drummers and the MASCHINE drum collection. See early comments re. Logic Pro X
World Instruments: Two more added giving the full set. Still unsure where I would use them
Electric Pianos / Organs: two more added
Acoustic Guitars: now get the full set of options
Bass Guitars: four more guitars make the set
Classical Instruments: this is a key area for ULTIMATE and one I wouldn’t immediately use. For other composers I can see this is a great set
Cinematic: I wish I could afford this as you get a good range of ambient / atmosphere/ interesting tools, ideal I would have thought for incidental / backing music composers
Studio and Creative Effects: you now have a full set and I’m sure several would come in useful. One day I’ll try and let you know!
Expansions: A further ten expansions are included. Of those I can see a few being interesting, but none essential so far
Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector’s
This is really top end. You get thirty more expansions and everything else (I think) is the same as ULTIMATE. Why would you buy this above the expansions you need? Also there are many expansions not in the list, so I would buy the ones I want. One day!
I hope this has been useful, let me know of any errors or alternative points of view in the comments. Thanks for your time!